Don’t Do It! Big mistakes to avoid as an intern

It’s only natural that we would make mistakes early on in our professional lives, and internships are no exception.

In fact, consider yourself lucky if you’re just off a summer internship and you haven’t made a compromising, yet common, faux pas like wearing flip flops to work or showing up late to your interview.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

While interns have a history of making real contributions at companies, getting real-world feedback and perhaps doing more than their fair share of filing, you couldn’t make up some of the horror stories interns have endured over the years.

Now we all know that internships can make all the difference between you and your competition when an employer stares down a stack of resumes.

While a high GPA and a challenging course load can attract attention, an internship is really the most effective way of standing apart from your peers.

Just make sure you distinguish yourself in the right way and not by queuing up the secret service or butchering a potential partnership with UPS by FedExing the proposal.

Do Your Homework and Ditch the PJs

Most interns remember to show up early for their first day, yet you’d be surprised how many interns neglect to do their homework beforehand.

Make sure that you, at minimum, do a little digging into the major players and work culture that you’re walking into.

On your first day also make sure to dress the part by remembering that you’re dressing for the position that you want. It’s much better to overdress than under-dress and come off as too casual.

Showing up on the first day in glorified pajamas sends the wrong message to your potential colleagues and shows a disrespect for the company in general. Remember: nobody got fired from an internship for looking too professional.

Treat It Like a Job

On the professionalism point, also remember that this internship could very well open the door to a post-graduation career opportunity. Treating the internship like a bona fide job shows respect for everyone in the office and makes it even easier for your boss to envision you with a job working there in a few years.

As with any job, you need to be organized and show good time management to be truly successful. Irrespective of whether this is a paid internship, your supervisor took a chance on hiring you. Whether you realize it or not, you represent the company that you’re interning with.

Social Media Etiquette

What about social media and internet use? Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are definitely a double-edged sword when it comes to internship etiquette.

While curiosity is a much appreciated form of flattery to extend to most employers – who would be happy to answer your questions in the form of, for instance, a LinkedIn private message – it’s never acceptable to abuse social media on an internship.

Unless your internship involves marketing and PR, you’re going to want to steer clear of Twitter and Instagram while at the office. An even bigger faux pas than whiling away the hours checking your friends’ statuses is using social media sites like Facebook to rant – or worse, confront your employer – about an internship experience that could have gone better.

Barring actual research or texting your mentor a quick question, it’s a good practice to leave web browsing for when you’re off the clock. Some advertising and marketing internship positions might expect you to use your cell phone for professional purposes – just remember that the exception doesn’t prove the rule.

Your (Internship) Questions Answered

You might now be thinking that internships have (to some extent) their own set of rules – a checklist of dos, don’ts and maybes- and you’re right.

You might be wondering, for instance, if it’s OK for you to inquire about possible days off, the parameters of your internship, whether the internship is paid and what a day in the life of an intern working at the company is really like.

All of these issues would be fine to tactfully bring up in the interview phase. It’s not OK, though, to grill a phone screener with intricate questions about the internship, text your supervisor that (alas!) you won’t be making it out today (pick up the phone and call instead!), or insinuate to anyone at the company that you’re just doing the internship as resume padding.

That said, asking your supervisor for small accommodations to make your job easier, or more responsibilities to wring all of the real-world experience out of your time, is usually acceptable.

Just realize that you’re in the internship to serve the company while getting exposure to the industry…and maybe even landing your dream job.

Find an internship and view resources at

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Bridge is a program that focuses on connecting employers and students in Rhode Island. The goal of Bridge is to match Rhode Island employers with talented students looking to gain valuable professional experience. Applying knowledge and skills acquired in college to a professional setting is a vital component of a student’s college education. Students who gain relevant internship experience are better prepared for full-time employment after graduation. By hiring interns, employers gain qualified, career-driven young professionals as employees. Student bring with them exposure to cutting edge practices and technology, new insights and philosophies, flexibility and a thirst for knowledge. bRIdge has a particular focus on connecting students and employers from specialized fields such as Business, Science, IT, Technology, Health, Design, Engineering and Manufacturing. The bRIdge website allows employers to post paid or unpaid internships online and directly reach out to a vast and talented pool of students. College students and recent graduates can sign up and start looking for an appropriate professional learning opportunity in minutes. bRIdge is a program of the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) and RISLA’s College Planning Center of Rhode Island. RISLA has joined up with Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island (AICURI), the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education (RIBGHE) and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to bring together academia, business and community. If you have any questions about this program or if you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.

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